5 Steps To A Cover Letter That Lands You An Interview
A lot of attention goes to a candidate’s resume, and rightfully so. It provides a ton of useful information for hiring managers trying to find their next hire. The piece of the puzzle that gets decidedly less attention is the cover letter. They go together like peas and carrots, but the resume seems to always garner top billing while leaving the cover letter as an after-thought. If you are pursuing that next career step, or stepping out trying to land that first job, take these 5 steps to a cover letter to land that interview.
Customize It to the Job and Hiring Manager
You want your cover letter to resound with a wide audience, such as recruiters, the hiring manager and maybe higher-ups that will have to sign off on an offer of employment. Even though a lot of different people may look at the letter, do your research and find out who the hiring manager is so that you can address the letter specifically to that person. This may require some research with an internet search, phone call to the organization or a conversation with HR, but it adds a personal touch.
Additionally, as tempting as it may be to recycle the same cover letter you’ve been using to apply to other jobs by only making minor changes, resist the urge. It will take time to write a unique cover letter to each position you are pursuing, but think about the potential return on investment. You put in extra time to write a standout cover letter and you could land the job you have had your eye on. It will be well worth your time and effort.
Something I recommend candidates do when they are interested in a job is reach out to the company to find out more about the position. You may end up with the opportunity to speak to the recruiter or even the hiring manager and can pick their brain about the job, timeline to fill or any number of other questions. The purpose of this encounter is two-fold. First, you want to get a feeling for the job and make sure it is something you can get excited about. Second, you have the opportunity to make a positive impression even before you submit your application materials. When you go to write your cover letter, you have an instant connection to call back on.
"Speaking with you about this opportunity only reinforced my commitment to this career move."
Another way to make connections in a less outgoing way is through industry and professional associations. Include in your cover letter an anecdote about a popular article or publication, or even tie your pursuit of this position back to a training program or conference you attended that people in the industry would recognize. Either way, these are subtle, and not-so-subtle, ways for your cover letter to connect with a reader.
Tell Your Story
It is important for a cover letter to convey a piece of the applicant. Take the opportunity to tell your story about how you got to where you are and what has led you to apply for this opportunity. This doesn’t have to be a long novel, but it can be impactful in helping the recruiter understand more than what a resume can convey.
Explain Your Motivation for Applying
What about this job got you excited enough to throw your hat in the ring? Managers often go to a lot of trouble to try to figure out what motivates an employee. Why not cut right to the chase and tell them? A cover letter can be a tremendous opportunity to convey why you are taking a step in that organization’s direction. Many hiring managers are going to be looking for natural career progressions, either overtly or implicitly. While this job may be a natural next step, that is not always the case. You may be making a career change or looking to take a step backward. Your cover letter can let you point out why this job makes so much sense for you and you make sense for it.
Avoid Mistakes and Slang
More and more I am reminded that candidates need to be mindful about using proper spelling and grammar. These principles still matter in business. Emoji’s, text message abbreviations and the like are still NSFMC—or not suitable for most companies. Keep it professional. If you are self-conscious about your writing, have someone whose opinion you trust and respect look it over.
Perhaps one of the reasons the cover letter plays second fiddle to the resume is that a lot of people assume it does not matter much, or they devalue its importance. I can tell you, as a hiring manager, a cover letter can make a world of difference. It is one of those pieces of the puzzle that can serve as a tie-breaker or give someone a leg up in a tight competition. Not all hiring managers and recruiters are going to read through every word. For that matter, they are not going to read through every word of a resume either. That is precisely why writing an effective cover letter is so important. Take advantage of other people not putting in the effort, and let your cover letter put you over the top against stiff competition or land your application in the interview stack.
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